PM Modi’s 5-point plan to make South Asia virus free
CNBC, New Delhi — Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Thursday suggested a 5-point plan to make South Asia a region free of COVID-19. All SAARC nations, including Pakistan, supported the proposals and offered to hold a structured discussion to take it forward. Modi was addressing a virtual workshop on the COVID-19 which was attended by health officials from all SAARC nations.
SAARC comprises South Asian countries — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The fact that Pakistan supported Modi’s 5-point plan is significant considering that relations between Islamabad and New Delhi have deteriorated since 2016.
To fight the pandemic, all SAARC nations agreed that there was a need for such regional cooperation. Apart from Pakistan, all other countries thanked India for supplying the COVID-19 vaccine. Pakistan is the only country that has not received vaccines from India, as the authorities haven’t yet sought assistance from India.
The Prime Minister’s 5 proposals were:
1. Visa scheme for doctors, nurses: The PM suggested this special visa scheme to facilitate the quick movement of doctors and nurses within the South-Asia region in case of any health emergency.
2. Regional air ambulance: Modi sought coordination among civil aviation ministries of the SAARC nations for a regional air ambulance agreement to handle medical contingencies.
3. Collaborative spirit on vaccines: The PM suggested the creation of a regional platform to collate, compile and study data about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among people of the region. So far, India has supplied 20 lakh vaccine doses to Bangladesh, Myanmar – 17 lakh, Nepal – 10 lakh, Mauritius – 1 lakh, Seychelles – 50,000, Sri Lanka – 5 lakh, Bhutan – 1.5 lakh and the Maldives – 1 lakh.
4. Regional network on technology: Modi suggested creating a regional network to promote technology-driven epidemiology for preventing another pandemic in the future.
5. Sharing successful public health policies:The fifth suggestion was for SAARC nations to come together and share their public health policies and schemes that have been successful with each other. For example, from India the Ayushman Bharat and Jan Arogya schemes could be case-studies for other member nations in the region.